Figuring out how you can use Google Apps to win new business deals can be a confusing task. Erin Sanders, data center services expert for Acumen Solutions Inc., answers a few key questions that help you understand what Software as a Service (SaaS) is and how Google Apps can benefit your clients. In the podcast, Sanders offers additional tips on Google Apps and expanding your service offerings.
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Considering Google Apps as a service offering
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I keep hearing conflicting stories about SaaS' reach in IT. What's the real story?
SaaS is definitely the latest buzzword. Most of your clients are likely to consider the use of SaaS -- particularly when a new application is required -- due to the flexibility and potential cost savings SaaS can offer. But keep in mind that the industry is still immature. Also, know that most industries and companies have certain specialized requirements that SaaS is unlikely to ever completely fulfill. Either way, be prepared to discuss this distribution model with your clients.
Why all the hype around Google Apps?
The hype around Google Apps is probably due to a few reasons. The first and most obvious reason being that while SaaS is still making headlines, specific applications are not. The days of the Salesforce.com hype are over, and the industry is clearly looking for the next blockbuster. The second reason is that while Google Apps is a combination of several applications, the cost of $50 per user per year, which includes 25 GB of storage, is very attractive in comparison to the prices of most Microsoft software.
So, what is Google Apps, and why should solution providers care?
As previously mentioned, Google Apps is a combination of several Google applications, including Gmail, Google Calendar, Google Talk and Google Documents. There are several things to note about Google Apps:
Price: Yes, price is probably the biggest reason to consider using Google Apps. Focusing on email alone, not many IT organizations can internally deliver the same service for that price. Many more would find it difficult to even come to a cost. That said, if your clients have recently invested in email licenses for their organizations, it's probably too late to financially justify Google Apps. Once the money is spent, it's best to wait until it is fully depreciated, or an upgrade is required, before taking another look. Also, if you have very small clients who currently use a cheap or free email solution, Google Apps will probably represent a cost increase. The added functionality may still be worth it, particularly given that it's a relatively inexpensive package.
Application suite: Aside from email, Google Apps includes several other applications. The other major contender is Google Docs and it is in direct competition to the Microsoft Office applications suite with a word processor and spreadsheet program. Google Docs can be used offline, and while basic functionality is fairly good, advanced features are noticeably missing. Power users will not be satisfied with the current abilities of Google Documents, but Google has been rapidly deploying additional functions. Even so, not all users need that much functionality. Instead of giving everyone the full capabilities of the Microsoft Office suite by default, it may make sense to selectively deploy MS Office for those who truly have a need and deploy Google Apps and Google Documents to the rest. Depending on the organization, it could probably satisfy at least 50% of the user base and save a lot of money in the process. Keep in mind that savings from Google Apps/Documents comes from both avoiding the cost of Microsoft Office licenses and reducing personal computing needs. A less expensive PC can still run Google Apps.
Collaboration: Perhaps one of the most compelling reasons to consider Google Apps is the built-in collaboration capability. Once Google Apps is deployed using your own domain name, users can collaborate using Google Sites. Documents can be shared by using inherent version control and configuring security settings and permissions. Forms can be created, users can create their own sites and a search feature is also included. Also, with all users on Google Apps, resource scheduling and calendar functions work in much the same way as Exchange (or perhaps function even better). Most clients that are disappointed with the difficulty and cost of using applications like SharePoint will likely find the collaboration of Google Apps to be highly interesting.
So what should solution providers do to prepare themselves for offering Google Apps services?
They should prepare for conversations with their clients. These conversations should focus on capabilities and costs. Particular attention should be paid to being able to compare the costs of existing or internal applications and email with Google Apps.
Also, Google is actively setting up partnerships and has a fairly robust partnering framework. VARs and service providers can help with integration, setup and customization. Part of becoming a partner means attending training sessions, and Google offers both sales and integration training. It's worth looking into this now before pursuing clients because you'll need to be a Google partner before you can close your first deal.
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About the expert
Erin Sanders is the data center services practice leader for Acumen Solutions Inc.. She has more than 10 years of IT infrastructure experience and helps Fortune 500 companies to make the most of their technology investments. Before becoming a consultant, Sanders led numerous projects in successfully sustaining IT operations in organizations. As a consultant, she has conducted several large scale data center related projects, including data center consolidations and migration, data center and IT strategies, IT architecture and engineering and IT infrastructure integration.
This was first published in June 2009